BASTROP, Texas -- A Central Texas pastor is being accused of throwing a neighbor's cat off of a bridge.
Rick Bartlett, pastor of the Bastrop Christian Church, is facing animal cruelty charges. Bastrop Police Chief Michael Black said Bartlett admitted that he caught the cat, named Moody, in a trap on Sunday, Jan. 15. Bartlett told them that he was having a problem with feral cats in his garden.
Moody also told police that he had the cat in a cage in the back of his pick-up truck for three days and forgot about him until Tuesday, Jan. 17., when Bartlett brought the cat to police. An animal control officer noticed a name tag including the phone number of Moody’s owners, Sarah and Eddy Bell, on the cat's collar. The officer offered to take Moody back to his owners but police said Bartlett told them he’d take the cat back himself since they were his neighbors.
Later on the same day, a park visitor discovered Moody’s near lifeless body on the bank of the Colorado River, some 40-50 feet below a bridge.
Greg Maynard, a veterinarian with the Crossroads Animal Hospital, said Moody had severe internal injuries but no external injuries consitent with being hit with a car. Maynard said Moody was "just laid out like a sack of potatoes. No obvious signs of trauma externally. No blood or nothing broke."
The same Animal Control Officer who came to the injured cat’s aid last Tuesday was the same officer who assisted Bartlett earlier that day. She recognized the cat which is how police made the connection to the pastor.
Moody was Sarah and Eddy Bell's cat for 11 years. They are having a difficult time understanding what happened to the beloved member of their family. Trying to explain his death to their five-year old daughter has proved challenging.
“She also asked me where Moody is now and I said, 'Baby he's in Heaven,'" said Sarah. "She knows the man who did this is a pastor at the Bastrop Christian Church and she said, 'I don't believe in Heaven anymore, Moody's just dead.'”
So far, no witnesses have come forward saying they saw Bartlett throwing Moody from the bridge, but in the eyes of the law, the animal cruelty charges are the same since he admitted to police that the animal was in his care.
Attempts to reach Bartlett for comment on this story Monday were unsuccessful.